Midway through Friday afternoon, an unheralded Sri Lankan batsman moving serenely towards a fine Test century, England's most aggressive bowler wicketless for 100 runs and chances going down faster than the lagers in the crowd, Andrew Strauss had to earn his captaincy corn.
The new ball had been and gone, yielding a solitary wicket. James Anderson was off the field, struggling with back and side problems so painful he would later be sent for a scan. The atmosphere inside the ground was as flat as a Welsh cake.
In such unpromising conditions, what is the canny Test skipper to do? How to reignite his spluttering side, to somehow conjure some menace from the most placid of pitches, to wangle out a well-set batsman and manage the frustrations of his struggling strike bowler?
"First things first: engage your Test brain, and not your World Cup brain or your Twenty20 brain," says Alec Stewart, former England and Surrey captain and his country's most capped Test player.
"There are 450 overs in the match, not 40. To get to where you want to be, you have to put the right building blocks in place: accurate bowling, tight fielding, making the opposition work for their runs, being patient.
"England had a really good first half hour on Friday. They pitched the ball up and got it to swing, so Sri Lanka had to sit in for a while. When they then saw off the new ball, it was England who had to sit in. That's Test cricket.
"We all watch a lot of 50 over cricket, and Twenty20 cricket, so everyone thinks the game always has to move along at a rate of knots. Test cricket doesn't always do that; it's more like a game of chess. You have to know when to attack, and when to defend."
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